July 2, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- John Mason, Financial Times, 06/30/04:
Large-scale commercial research into genetically modified
crops in the UK is to end after Syngenta, the Anglo-Swiss
biotechnology company, on Wednesday said it would close
its laboratories because of the poor business outlook
for the technology.
The company plans to move its research efforts from
Jealott's Hill in Berkshire to North Carolina, in the
US, where there is a more favorable business and regulatory
"This does not lessen our commitment to biotechnology
but we have to have people in places where they have
the most impact - and that is in North Carolina,"
the company said.
The Jealott's Hill research center will continue developing
agro-chemicals, receiving $15m of fresh investment.
But all biotech work will stop with the loss of 130
jobs, it said.
Syngenta's move, reported in the Times Higher Education
Supplement on Thursday dismayed plant scientists throughout
the UK who saw the decision as a blow to some academic
Syngenta was the last biotech company to retain a significant
GM research presence in the UK after decisions by Monsanto,
Dupont and Bayer Cropscience to withdraw. It has underpinned
much plant science research by universities.
Michael Wilson, a professor of plant biology at Warwick
University, told the THES: "Anyone who isn't about
to retire will leave the country. We are all feeling,
'what the hell is the point?'
Mike Gale, of the John Innes Center, the leading public
sector plant science center, was not surprised, saying
Syngenta had been winding down its UK commitment for
two years. "The state of applied plant science
is not as high as it has been, but in terms of fundamental
research we are still strong," he said.
Syngenta stopped short of blaming government policy
for its decision to pull out of the UK.
However, the Agriculture and Biotechnology Council,
the trade association it belongs to, said lack of government
support was a clear factor behind the decision.
Julian Little, a spokesman for the council, said: "The
whole industry understands Syngenta's decision. The
UK is a difficult place to work."
Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, had made
encouraging statements saying GM crops would be considered
on a case-by-case basis. However, this had not been
backed by action, he said.
Environmentalists welcomed Syngenta's withdrawal. Pete
Riley of Friends of the Earth said: "This decision
shows the biotech industry misjudged the market in the
UK and Europe. Rather than retreat to the US, they should
rethink the products they offer sustainable agriculture."